© Reuters FILE PHOTO: People protest in front of the main gate of Japan’s parliament building for the funeral of slain former prime minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, Japan, August 31, 2022. In this government photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory cr
By Elaine’s lies
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will hold a rare funeral for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday, a ceremony that has sparked public anger over a political scandal and widespread opposition to his successor, Fumio Kishida.
Abe’s assassination in July marked a series of revelations about the relationship between lawmakers in his once-led Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Unification Church, an organization critics call a cult.
Kishida has tried to contain the damage by apologizing and vowing to sever ties with the church, the LDP, which was founded in South Korea in the 1950s and is known for mass weddings and aggressive fundraising. But the fallout from the party and its government is enormous.
Abe’s suspected killer accused the church of impoverishing his family, police said. In a post on social media before the assassination, Abe accused the group of supporting the group.
A church spokesman apologized for any inconvenience caused to the Japanese public or LDP lawmakers and said it would take action against any actions that require excessive donations. The church promises to respond quickly to complaints or refund requests.
No fewer than 179 LDP members, including several prominent lawmakers, have been declared to have ties to the church, sending Kishida’s ratings to their lowest level since his tenure began a year ago, potentially weakening his hold on the party. It is more difficult for him to fulfill his political commitments.
In a recent poll by the Mainichi newspaper, 62 percent of respondents said they were against a state funeral for Abe. Among the reasons raised by the respondents are that the former prime minister is not worthy of honor and has a high price. The government has estimated the cost at $12 million – more than six times the previous estimate – but comments on social media suggest many believe it will cost much more.
Tomoaki Iwai, an expert on Japanese politics and professor emeritus at Nihon University, said holding a state funeral for Kishida was “a big mistake.” There were many people at the funeral when he first decided, but then there were reports that the abbe had ties to the Unification Church, and the opposition grew.
That public anger was tragically expressed on Wednesday when a man in his 70s set himself on fire near the prime minister’s residence in protest at a state funeral, Japanese media reported. The man was taken to hospital conscious.
Kishida confirmed the celebration, citing Abe’s long tenure and achievements at home and abroad.
Abe’s protest at the funeral shows how divided Japanese society is. While his pro-protectionist and pro-market policies were favored by nationalists and many on the right, they were reviled by many who wanted him to avoid changing the country’s peaceful constitution.
Japan’s first fully government-funded funeral was held in 1967 for Shigeru Yoshida. Events since then have been divided between the government and the LDP.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Isaku Sato, who oversaw the return of Okinawa to Japan from US control 50 years ago and was Abe’s long-serving prime minister, did not have a state funeral when he died in 1975. For him.
A private funeral was held on July 12, four days after Abe’s execution. 6,000 guests, including more than 190 foreign delegates, are expected to gather at Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan Hall for the public commemoration. According to media reports, about 50 heads of state or heads of state are expected, and Kishida said he could meet about 30 of them.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, India’s Narendra Modi and Australia’s Anthony Albanese, US Vice President Kamala Harris are also expected to attend.